Exploring Community Gardens in a Health Disparate Population: Findings from a Mixed Methods Pilot Study
Hill, Jennie L.
Zoellner, Jamie M.
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Background: Despite recommendations, there have been few efforts to apply the community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach in the development, implementation, and evaluation of community gardens. Objectives: As guided by the CBPR approach and grounded in a social-ecological model and behavioral theory, the purpose of this mixed methods study was to understand opinions and interests in developing and implementing a community garden and to understand factors impacting fruit, vegetable, and gardening behaviors. Methods: Community and academic members collaborated to develop and execute this study. The qualitative phase- targeting regional key informants-was designed to elicit perceived benefits and challenges of community gardens at the environmental, community, and individual levels. The quantitative phase targeted low resourced youth and parents and included a variety of validated theory-based questionnaires to understand factors impacting fruit, vegetable, and gardening behaviors. Results: Major benefits of community gardens that emerged from the 10 qualitative interviews included increasing community cohesion and improving nutrition and physical activity factors. The quantitative phase included 87 youth and 67 parents. Across 16 items for fruits and vegetables, the average willingness to try was 1.32 (standard deviation [SD] = 0.40) on a 2-point scale. The majority of youth indicated they would work in a garden (n = 59; 68%) and eat food grown in their garden (n = 71; 82%). Among parents, gardening attitude, belief, and self-efficacy scores were all above average; however, gardening intentions were neutral. Conclusion: This research illustrates the successful partnering a community-academic team and has provided the partnership with a clearer lens to conceptualize and launch future regional community garden efforts.